The Las Vegas Raiders are making NFL history again in the front office by hiring Sandra Douglass Morgan as the first Black female team president. The Raiders were also the first team to have a female CEO in the NFL when Amy Trask took on the role in 1997.
While Morgan’s hire is a win for minorities across the league, the timing of it is what raises eyebrows. Too often, we see blacks in the NFL brought in to “clean up” a mess their predecessor (usually a white male) left behind.
I’m not blaming Morgan or saying she’s wrong for taking the job. We create change by being present in the room and at the discussion table. So, nothing but kudos to Sandra on her achievements. The timing of it is what stands.
A couple of weeks ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a piece that outlined and described the Raiders franchise as having a “boys club culture that fueled turnover, lawsuits and harassment claims.” Multiple women that once worked for the organization have alleged a pattern of harassment and unequal treatment. In the Review-Journal article, one woman compares the Raiders’ work environment to a “boys club and the mob wrapped in one.”
So, now less than three weeks later, we have Las Vegas hiring a Black woman to come in and seemingly make things right. The Raiders aren’t the only culprit in their hiring practices regarding blacks and other minorities in the front office. This has been a problem around the NFL for decades. Some people feel blacks should shut up and be happy with “progress.
Hey, that sounds familiar. It’s the same “shut up and dribble” mentality expressed by asshat Laura Ingraham of Fox News and many like herself. That’s the same attitude held by many NFL owners (if not all of them). They feel players and people of color working in an NFL front office should be happy to be where they are. Never mind that our league has fewer black head coaches than the XFL, which is relaunching in 2023.
NFL teams repeatedly show us how they feel about women whenever they welcome back a player who has committed a crime against females with open arms. We’ve witnessed that over the past year with DeShaun Watson and the numerous women who’ve accused him of inappropriate behavior and sexual misconduct. While he was cleared of criminal charges, up to 24 civil lawsuits were eventually filed against him, with 20 recently being settled.
None of that stopped the Cleveland Browns from trading multiple first-round draft picks and more for Watson. Cleveland didn’t stop there; they went all the way, signing Watson to a five-year, $230-million contract that’s fully guaranteed. The Browns couldn’t give two shits if Watson misses the entire 2022 season. They think he can help them win, so the deal was made.
There’s no doubt that Morgan’s accomplishment should be celebrated. Still, it feels like another case of a minority, especially a Black person, being hired in a prestigious position to a team with a shitty situation. This report about a toxic culture in Las Vegas and Oakland surrounding the team comes out, and two weeks later, they bring in the first black female team president in league history.
Morgan takes control of a franchise that’s been riddled with drama lately. There were allegations of harassment, the Jon Gruden email incident last fall that led to his dismissal, and numerous player arrests over the last couple of years. The Raiders are a mess. There’s no other way to put it. Now their new team president will be tasked with cleaning up the front office more than anything.
It always seems to be some catch when blacks and other minorities are hired to positions of power/leadership in the NFL. The Rooney Rule proves that. The league had to implement a rule so black coaches could get a “fair” shake in the hiring process.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been praised for hiring African Americans to lead his franchise over the years. Ross made Chris Grier general manager in 2016 and brought in Brian Flores as head coach in 2019, along with other black coaches joining his staff. Ross even started a non-profit called the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). Its “focus” is on improving race relations through collegiate and professional sports-based initiatives.
My colleague Carron J. Phillips wrote a piece on Ross back in 2019 for the New York Daily News, where he refers to Ross as a “two-faced con-artist” that says whatever he feels necessary to please the room. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. He warned that while Ross had done some good things for blacks in the NFL, some of his other actions and double-talk shouldn’t be overlooked.
In between hiring Grier and Flores, Ross told the Daily News in 2018 that “all of our players will be standing” regarding national anthem protests and players kneeling for social justice and racial equality in America. But wait a minute? Isn’t Ross’ non-profit RISE supposed to be about furthering race relations in sports? This is the type of hypocrisy Phillips points out in his article on Ross. Be happy for some of the opportunities he’s given blacks but let’s not hoist him up on a pedestal like he’s Jesus.
Jason Wright is a former player who’s climbed his way up the executive ladder and was the first Black team president in the NFL, hired by Daniel Snyder and the Washington Commander in 2020. That is one hell of an accomplishment, and I’m happy Wright achieved that feat.
But like Morgan in Las Vegas, Wright walked into probably the poorest run, most toxic franchise in the entire league. Ron Rivera, who is also a minority, is the head coach in Washington.
Snyder’s organization has been corrupt, seemingly from the day he bought it in 1999. But that’s the team Wright had to get his opportunity with. A team that allegedly pimped out their cheerleaders to male sponsors and suite holders.
Numerous allegations and lawsuits of harassment in the office and overall toxic culture. Snyder himself is named in several suits. So, the toxicity literally goes all the way to the top in Washington. This is the job a black executive had to take in order to land a prominent position in an NFL front office.
I’m not saying it’s 100% across the board, but more often, blacks in the NFL get the worst or messiest jobs if they want an opportunity to grow. We see it all the time in coaching. Anthony Lynn was with the Chargers a couple of years ago, but once they found their franchise quarterback and things started to look up, Lynn was ousted in favor of a white head coach. Recently we’ve seen Lovie Smith get another opportunity with the Houston Texans. They’ll be lucky to win four games this season.
Todd Bowles was one of the hottest coordinators a few years ago and had to settle for the NY Jets. That organization has been major league dysfunctional for decades (Just End This Season) with very few bright spots. It frequently continues to be scraps and leftovers for blacks and minorities in the NFL.
Now Morgan’s added to the list of Black people in positions of leadership in the NFL who get jobs where the degree of dysfunction is through the roof. Again, it’s the timing that screams out about this hire. That isn’t to say she didn’t earn it, but it’s just the optics that don’t look great in this situation.
Morgan could be exactly who the Raiders need to fix this mess of a franchise. I just hope they give her the time and resources required. It won’t be a quick fix, that’s for sure, but hopefully she’s up for the task.